Monthly Archives: February 2015

Cosplay: Tim the Enchanter, P2

Seven yards is a lot of fabric, y’all. I had to set up chairs into the other room in an attempt to keep it off the floor while I pinned and cut the pieces for the red layers.

I had to use four chairs.

Anyway, I got the fabric all washed and folded lengthwise and I pinned the selvedges together in an attempt to keep everything from wandering. I measured 63″ from the end of the fabric, and that’s were I lined up the fold line on the pattern. That lengthened the robe quite a bit, but that wasn’t the only thing I altered. From the waist, I took a straightedge and tailor’s chalk, and marked a line to the edge of the fabric, adding several inches of width to the bottom of the robe as well. Tim’s robes are very full, by using two layers, and adding that width to the base of the robe, I think I can get the same effect.

widening the pattern piece
Widening the pattern piece.

After I got all four pieces cut out, I called my model in to pin fit the pieces to him. The first thing I realized was that the neck hole was far too small. Unsurprising, since I was using two back pieces, with no hole to speak of at all. I marked where it looked like it would be most comfortable with white pencil and took the pins out so he could get out without stabbing himself. Using my markings, I sketched a curve (real pattern designers have tools for that) and then used my ruler to measure 5/8″ from that and marked a cutting line. After I trimmed the pieces, I did another pin fit just to be certain. Then I started sewing.

altering the neck
Altering the neck.

All four layers were sewn together at the shoulder, and I stitched down the neck. I did a seam 1/4″ in from the edge to hold the two layers together in the armscye and down to the waist of the front and back, then I stitched the waist, reinforcing the top and bottom with several backstitches. Once I had everything sewn up, I had my husband try it on again to check for fit and comfort, made him walk around so I could see it move, and I think I’m going to need to add… something… between the layers of broadcloth. The fabric is clinging together too much. I may sew something to the inner layer at the waist, to try and mitigate that. Don’t know what yet. At that point I was falling-down tired and went to bed.

The finished red layer(s), and a closeup of the side seam, showing the anchoring stitch I used to hold the front two and back two layers together.

When the alarm went off at quarter after 5, I was already thinking about how to attack the black layer. The way it’s shaped is really nothing like the way the red layers are shaped, but I still need the sleeves to fit properly. The way I cut out the back on the fold should still work fine, I just have to adjust the curve of where it meets the shortened front. I didn’t want to use the two back pieces again, though. One, because of the neck issue, and two, because I wanted to make sure the sleeve fit properly.

To figure out how long to make the front and where to join them at the sides, I used one of my screenshots and math. I know John Cleese is 77 inches tall, and in this photo he’s 5 inches tall, which is an aspect ratio of 1:15.4. So by measuring from the bottom of the black layer to his shoulder — 3.5 inches — and multiplying by 14.5, I get 53.9, which I will round up to 54 inches. Where the pieces join at the sides are 2 inches from the ground in the photo, times 15.4, for 30.8 inches (rounded to 31). BUT! The estimable Mr. Cleese is 4 inches taller than my husband, so to get the right ratio and length, I need to subtract 3 (allowing for the shoulder seam) inches from those numbers, getting 51 and 28, respectively. Yes, I should only be subtracting 5/8″ for the seam allowance, but that would mean measuring 50 3/8″ for that front piece and I prefer whole numbers. (The only Fraction I like is Matt — ba-dum-tsch! Little comic book humor, sorry.)

Math in action. I hope this makes sense.

The black layer back piece was basically the same as the red, so I cut it out I did the other, with one change: instead of widening it from the waist, I marked it at 28″ (where the front and back side seams meet and part away to form an inverted V at the side) and marked from there. As my scissors sliced into the fabric I had misgivings about that, and I’m still not sure I’m happy with the cut. I guess I’ll find out when I sew it all together.

Mark at 28″ up from the hem, where the two sides will meet.

I laid out the front piece on the fold at an angle and off-grain. This cut off a few inches from the chest, which may bite me later — if I have to, I have small pieces I can splice in under the neck to widen that area. (It will be hidden by all of Tim’s accessories, but I really don’t want to have to do that.) I wanted the front to be all once piece and have some width across the bottom, but I was a little stymied how to do the neck. In the end, I just cut straight across from the shoulder, deciding I could cut fabric off a lot easier than I could put it back. I’ll alter the neck after I pin fit it; that worked well before.

Off-grain and wonky. I’m totally making this up as I go.

Once I got that cut out, I discovered one of the pitfalls of altering a pattern without a clear idea of how much fabric you were going to need: not having enough; I ran out of fabric for the sleeves. After my husband had suggested that I get more (just in case) when we bought it. So another trip to the fabric store was in order, but I had a 50% off coupon and went ahead and bought what I needed for the cloak at the same time. So now the fabric is washed, sleeves cut out, and I’m bloody tired. The dining room table is a terrible height for a cutting surface. I wanted to get the black layer finished today, but I can barely move as it is. Next time I’ll have more to show you!

Cosplay: Tim the Enchanter, P1

I decided to sew my husband a Tim the Enchanter costume from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but quickly discovered that there really are no good images online of the costume. Plus, it’s mostly black, so a lot of detail is gone; you just can’t see how it’s constructed.

I tried taking notes and making sketches from watching the scene (over and over) but even pausing it wasn’t helpful because it’s just too dark to see the details. What I finally ended up doing was putting the disk in my computer and trying to take screenshots (nope, it’s protected, didn’t work), so I used a camera. In all, it took me about 45 minutes of watching about 6 minutes of the movie in slow motion and frame-by-frame to try and find the images I wanted. The photos aren’t good, but they didn’t need to be. All I needed was to be able to adjust them in Photoshop to see detail in the black that I wasn’t able to see otherwise.

Tim the Enchanter
Left: unedited screenshot. Right: contrast turned down, brightness turned up.

If you look in the photo above, you can see a triangular point at his left shoulder. I have a couple of photos showing that, and I’m confident that it’s the front yoke of the hooded cloak. It wasn’t until I blew up the brightness that I could see that. I can also see pretty clearly how the front and back of the black layer connect. I also got several pictures showing the back of the cloak and how shredded it is, revealing the red lining. Tim’s robes?  They’re a mess. The good news is, I won’t have a lot of finished hems to worry about.

I’m using McCall’s 4320 as my jumping-off point for the robes. Instead of cutting two front pieces so the robe opens in the front, I’ll cut two back pieces and modify it at the neck for comfort. The sleeves are thin, they are only a single layer, so they will be made only in black. The red will consist of two layers, front and back (2x) of inexpensive broadcloth I got with a 50% coupon — 7 yards of it. (My husband’s tall, not quite John Cleese tall, who’s 6’5″, but tall.) The black layer will be the front and back plus the sleeves, out of more broadcloth. Once that’s constructed, I still have to make the cloak, and I haven’t decided what I want to use for that yet, but it will be more of the black, with the red lining. Oh, and the ram’s horn headdress! (Yeah, so not buying that plush thing I’ve seen online.) And the accessories! In time for Free Comic Book Day! [insert scream here]

Next time I’ll have work-in-progress photos. Pardon me, I need to get busy…

A Note about Dating

If you’ve browsed the store, and we hope you have, you may be wondering about the dating of the historic patterns. I wanted to categorize them in a way I thought the majority of people would be familiar with. If I’m using “Victorian” as a timeframe, I want to be consistent and continue within the English monarchy (for the most part) as my point of reference.

For easy reference, here’s how we’re defining time:

  • Middle Ages 400CE-1558
  • Renaissance 1400-1600
  • Stuart 1603-1714
  • Georgian 1714-1837, Regency 1811-1820
  • Victorian 1837-1901
  • (American) Civil War 1861-1865
  • Pioneer 1867-1885
  • Belle Époque 1871-1914
  • Edwardian 1901-1914
  • Jazz Age 1920-1929
  • Retro/Vintage (After 1930)

There is some overlap. You will find that some patterns will be tagged with more than one thing, where it’s appropriate. That’s especially true when it’s not clear what time period a costume should belong to.

Not all of the historical patterns are accurate in their design, they are costumes, after all, and designed for home sewers. I have done my best to point out inaccuracies where I saw them in case you want to stay as historically accurate in your costume as possible. Of course, if you’re doing Victorian Sailor Moon, “period correct” is probably not a concern, in which case, carry on! (And please share pictures — that’s a mashup I’d love to see.)

For my references, I used :
The Chronicle of Western Fashion From Ancient Times to the Present Day, by John Peacock (Abrams, 1991)
Survey of Historic Costume, Third Edition, by Phyllis Tortora and Keith Eubank (Fairchild Publications, 1998)
Elizabethan Costuming for the Years 1550-1580, by Janet Winter and Carolyn Savoy (Other Times Publications, 1987)
and Ye Olde Wikipedia, by everyone (taken with a grain of salt, 2015)

We want you to be able to find what you’re looking for. I hope this helps you do that. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions!

We Are Live – Store Is In Beta!

Our store is now LIVE! However, it is still in Beta. That means that it works and you can order things, but it is subject to change, hopefully for the better, without notice. 🙂 Just click on the “Store” link in the menu bar or this one right here to see what’s in stock!

We will be adding literally HUNDREDS of patterns and tons of cool information, tutorials, and other nifty stuff over the next few weeks. If something doesn’t work, pleasepleaseplease let us know by commenting or emailing. If you want to know if we have a particular pattern or kind of pattern not yet listed, or advice on matching a pattern to a particular setting or character, or what the weather’s like in Illinois, please don’t hesitate to send us an email at (for actual cosplay questions) or (for technical issues or weather-related inquiries.)